RICHWOOD, WV (WOWK) -Four former city official in Richwood are now facing charges of embezzlement and fraud.
State Auditor John B. McCuskey has released the findings from the report of an 18-month long investigation into the misuse of public funds by the City of Richwood. The report has resulted in four public officials being charged.
According to court documents, Former Richwood City Clerk, Abigail McClung, is charged with embezzlement and computer fraud, Lloyd Cogar, Chief of Richwood Police, was charged with embezzlement and Fraudulent or Unauthorized use of a Purchasing Card, and Christina Drennen, the Recorder for the city of Richwood, was charged with embezzlement.
Bob Henry Baber, former mayor of Richwood; was also charged, but has not been arrested yet.
“Despite the influx of nearly $3.1 million from FEMA to assist the City of Richwood’s recovery from the devastating floods of June 23, 2016, greed, incompetence and total lack of fiscal management have left Richwood on the brink of bankruptcy,” McCuskey said.
The report, completed by the State Auditor’s Office Public Integrity and Fraud Unit, with the assistance of the West Virginia State Police, highlights the city’s mismanagement of funds; abdication of fiscal
responsibility by City Council; mismanagement and potential misuse of FEMA monies; and misuse and
maladministration of the city’s purchasing cards.
Also highlighted in the report is the city’s designated flood recovery team, known as ICS, which improperly diverted FEMA monies, intended for other specific repairs, to payments to themselves, family and friends, and outside consultants.
The report also criticizes the State’s handling of FEMA monitoring, including how monies are received and projects closed out to ensure timely payments.
During 2017 and several years preceding, McClung was employed as a Clerk for the city of Richwood, WV. As part of her responsibilities, McClung responsible for reporting of employee tax withholdings and employee contributions to state and federal entities.
McClung confessed to falsifying certain tax forms to indicate that withholdings had been remitted, when in fact they had not been remitted to the respective tax agencies (IRS/State Tax Department). McClung used a computer to create said tax forms and said these false figures were then transmitted via a computer network to state and federal tax officials
Additionally, prior to separating from employment from the city of Richwood in October of 2017, court documents say McClung issued herself a check for 208 hours of vacation time. City of Richwood employees are not entitled to payouts of unused vacation time. Further, this figure appears falsified and in excess of amounts allotted to any full-time employee of the City of Richwood. McClung received a $3,120 check from the City of Richwood following her separation.
In February of 2015, Cogar was working as the Chief of Police in Richwood and was issued two local government purchase cards and was required to sign the West Virginia Local Government Purchasing Cardholder Agreement for said cards.
Authorities say from August 2015 through May 2017, Cogar made at Ieast ten purchases in and around Richwood, with his cards, totaling $527.15. State Police say the charges appear to be personal in nature and lack the supporting documentation. Additionally, between July 2015 and June 2017, troopers say Cogar used his cards to make purchases of tires and services in excess of $2,000 on Richwood City vehicles at his personally owned tire business Allen’s Discount Tire store, to which he derived a financial benefit.
Around June 14th, 2016, Drennen was elected the Recorder for the city of Richwood and took office on around July 1st, 2016.
As Recorder, Drennen oversaw the finances and records of Richwood, including serving as chair of the city’s Finance committee. She also had signature authority over the city paychecks. As Recorder, she is entitled to a monthly pay salary/stipend of $400.31 a month.
Following the June 2016, flood that damaged the city of Richwood, Drennen volunteered with to help Richwood recover from the flood. Although she was an elected official and volunteering, troopers say she was made an employee of the city without Council knowledge or awareness.
On July 7th, 2016, troopers she was paid a check in the amount of $343.69 for her Recorder position and a second check on July 7th, 2016, in the amount of $1,437.12 as an alleged employee of the city.
On July 8th, 2016, troopers say she was paid, $1,342.05, for alleged overtime she claimed to have worked as an employee.
Around July 18th, 2016, troopers say Drennen deemed herself to be a member of another group of volunteers that had been formed to organize the city’s flood recovery.
This group, known as the Incident Command Structure (“ICS”) team was headed up by two individuals Jeromy Ross and Jon Cox
Troopers say Drennen, Rose, and Cox all paid themselves as employees of the city and set their own hourly rate. Drennen set her rate at $30/hour. She was paid again as an employee on July 28th, 2016, and continued to be paid as an employee until on or about January 9th, 2017.
Collectively, troopers say she was paid a total of $45,357.75 as an employee of the city of Richwood. This amount was paid separate and in addition to her monthly Recorder pay. Further, on many of these payments to herself, troopers say Drennen signed the check.